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Reed v. City of Diamondhead

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division

March 26, 2019

CLOVIS REED PLAINTIFF
v.
CITY OF DIAMONDHEAD, et al. DEFENDANTS

          ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF CLOVIS REED'S MOTION [23] TO DISMISS WITHOUT PREJUDICE; DISMISSNG PLAINTIFF CLOVIS REED'S CLAIMS AGAINST DEFENDANTS NANCY DEPREO AND THOMAS SCHAFER IN THEIR INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES WITHOUT PREJUDICE; AND DISMISSING CASE WITHOUT PREJUDICE

          HALIL SULEYMAN OZERDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         BEFORE THE COURT is Plaintiff Clovis Reed's Motion [23] for Voluntary Dismissal Without Prejudice. After due consideration of the record, the related pleadings, and relevant legal authority, the Court is of the opinion that Plaintiff's Motion [23] for Voluntary Dismissal Without Prejudice should be granted and Plaintiff Clovis Reed's claims against Defendants Nancy Depreo and Thomas Schafer in their individual capacities should be dismissed without prejudice. The Court is further of the opinion that it should decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state-law claims, and that this case should therefore be dismissed without prejudice.

         I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Clovis Reed (“Plaintiff”) is the former City Manager of the City of Diamondhead, Mississippi. On May 14, 2018, he filed this action against the following Defendants: the City of Diamondhead; Thomas Schaeffer, in his official capacity as Mayor for the City of Diamondhead and individually; Nancy Depreo, in her official capacity as Alderwoman for the City of Diamondhead and individually; Terry King; Margaret Dutton; Karen Rice; Dwayne Bremmer; Nicole Boisdore, and Elaine Bienvenue[1] (collectively “Defendants”). Compl. [1]. The Complaint alleges that Defendants violated Plaintiff's First and Fourteenth Amendment rights and that they committed a myriad of torts against him in violation of Mississippi law.[2]Id. at 3-10.

         The Complaint asserts that while Plaintiff was serving as City Manager, Defendant Mayor Schafer (the “Mayor”) treated Plaintiff's position as the “mayor's assistant, instead of the City Manager.” Id. at 3-4. Plaintiff contends that when members of the City Council asked him to focus more on his role as City Manager rather than on the Mayor's requests, the Mayor began verbally attacking him and undermining his authority. Id. at 4-5. Plaintiff alleges that he asked the City Council to intervene in this alleged harassment, but it refused to act and the harassment continued. Id. at 5. According to the Complaint, the Mayor then began calling for Plaintiff's termination. In addition, the Mayor and other individual Defendants began falsely claiming “on social media, in public forums, behind closed doors, through media outlets, by word of mouth, and at council meetings” that Plaintiff had committed criminal acts. Id. at 5-6.

         Following settlement negotiations with the City of Diamondhead and Defendants Schafer and Depreo, Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed his claims against the City and Defendants Depreo and Schafer in their official capacities. Notice of Dismissal [21] [22]. Plaintiff then filed the instant Motion [23] seeking to voluntarily dismiss Defendants Nancy Depreo and Thomas Schafer in their individual capacities without prejudice. Mot. [23]. Defendant Schafer initially responded by requesting a hearing on the Motion [23] and asking the Court to only grant a dismissal of these Defendants with prejudice, Resp. [24] at 2-3, but Schafer later withdrew this Response [24] and therefore his opposition to the Motion [23], Notice of Withdrawal [39].

         Three non-City, individual Defendants, Rice, Boisdore, and King, also submitted a Response [26] in Opposition to the Motion [23], arguing that the Court should require Plaintiff to pay all legal fees and costs and “compel Reed and the City of Diamondhead to disclose all facts” that caused the parties to settle their claims. Resp. [26] at 3-4. In Reply [28], Plaintiff asserts that these Defendants are not entitled to legal fees and that they had no right to take part in settlement talks between him and the other Defendants. Reply [28] at 2.

         Defendant City of Diamondhead responded in support of Plaintiff's Motion [23] stating that Defendant Schafer abstained in the City's vote to waive the consent to settle clause of their insurance agreement allowing the settlement of these claims. Resp. [27] at 1-2. The City further maintains that Plaintiff waived his right to file suit against Defendants Schafer and Depreo in their individual capacities in future state court filings. Id. at 2.

         During the Case Management Conference held before the Magistrate Judge, the parties agreed that once the Court dismisses Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Schafer and Depreo, the “only claims remaining in the case [will be] state[-]law claims.” Minute Entry, Dec. 17, 2018.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Motion [23] for Voluntary Dismissal Without Prejudice

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41 permits a party to seek voluntary dismissal “by court order, on terms that the court considers proper.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(a)(2). “Unless the order states otherwise, a dismissal under this [Rule 41(a)(2)] is without prejudice.” Id. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has explained that “as a general rule, motions for voluntary dismissal should be freely granted unless the non-moving party will suffer some plain legal prejudice other than the mere prospect of a second lawsuit.” Elbaor v. Tripath Imaging, Inc., 279 F.3d 314, 317 (5th Cir. 2002). “The mere fact that the plaintiff ‘may gain a tactical advantage by dismissing its suit without prejudice and refiling in another forum is not sufficient legal prejudice.'” United States ex rel. Vaughn v. United Biologics, L.L.C., 907 F.3d 187, 196-97 (5th Cir. 2018) (quoting Bechuck v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., 814 F.3d 287, 299 (5th Cir. 2016) (internal quotation omitted)). Absent a showing of “plain legal prejudice” or other “evidence of abuse by the movant, ” such a motion should be granted. Elbaor, 279 F.3d at 317.

         With Defendant Schafer having withdrawn his Response [24] to the pending Motion [23], non-City Defendants Rice, Boisdore, and King are the only Defendants who oppose Plaintiff's Motion [23]. Mot. [23]; Resp [26]; Notice of Withdrawal [39]. The Court finds that their requests for attorneys' fees and for disclosure of the details of the settlement are not well taken, and it declines to award such relief. See Resp. [26]. Further, because “the mere prospect of a second lawsuit” is not enough to show “plain legal prejudice, ” Plaintiff's Motion [23] for Voluntary Dismissal Without Prejudice should be granted.

         B. Supplemental jurisdiction ...


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